Just returned from my first Romantic Times Convention in Kansas City. Though the calendar told me it was early May, the weather outside was more February. Maybe you, too, got hit by the sudden snowfall? It broke records all over the place. Fortunately, my two travel days didn’t involve the white stuff, and I was indoors the entire time there, so other than regretting not having packed a heavier sweater, I escaped the worst of it. Thank you, Westin Hotel, for providing your guests with comfy, microsuede bathrobes.
Okay, weather report aside, RT13 was memorable for me in other ways as well. It was my first time attending an event like this as a published author. How did that feel? Truthfully, not much different than I felt at past RWA conferences, EXCEPT my goal this time wasn’t to find an agent or publisher interested in my work. This time I was there to meet readers and introduce them to Barbara Barrett. I found myself smiling more than ever before, and it wasn’t because I was trying to come across as friendly and approachable. Well, maybe that’s how it started, but it didn’t take long before I realized what a freeing action it is to open up like that. The more I did it, the more others returned the same.
When it came to meeting people and starting conversations, that old nugget, asking questions, really worked. Two standbys, overused as they might sound, got things started almost every time: “Is this your first RT?” and “Where are you from?” Almost every time, I found we had something in common and that provided the follow-up questions.
These conversations alone were worth the cost of registration, but I got so much more from the convention. For one thing, I met up with fellow authors Linda Joyce, Jill James and Barbara Bettis from The Wild Rose Press. Although many of us are online with each other frequently, this was a huge opportunity to meet each other in person. Since most of the “Roses” I ran into were first-time authors or first time with TWRP, we exchanged a lot of information and advice. It was like a mini-retreat.
I also participated in RTEXPO13, an event geared totally toward ebook authors, self-pubs, and graphic authors. The participants were placed alphabetically by last name. I wound up between an author who writes erotica and one who does paranormal and Young Adult. When I wasn’t talking to attendees, it was an education to observe them interacting with their readers. Some aspects of their genres are radically different from what I write, and yet I was more impressed with the commonalities we shared: a compelling story and a story well-told.
The promotional industry received a big boost from authors’ “swag” at this event. I thought I was doing about as much as my limited budget could tolerate to bring business cards, rack cards, post cards, candy wrapped in my book covers, and toy kaleidoscopes, also wrapped in my book covers. If you check out the picture, my half-table display looked pretty good, especially when I got up the nerve to dress in a chef jacket, hat and apron that matched the purple cover of And He Cooks Too. I had nothing on the beads, jewelry, eyemasks, handcuffs, screensavers, fingernail files, etc. others brought. I would be interested in seeing a study analyzing the relationship of sales to swag given away. Fascinating. And those were nothing compared to the life-sized posters mounted on every wall and elevator.
Despite the information and fun-packed schedule of RT, each time I returned to my hotel room, the one overriding thought on my mind was how much I wanted to get back to my writing. In the end, it’s all about the relationship I have with my laptop and my stories.